Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Validity: When the Holy Spirit Stays Home... I recently re-discovered a quote from one of my favorite liturgists and authors, Adrian Fortescue. The quote is from his book "The Greek Fathers": "People who are not theologians never seem to understand how little intention is wanted for a sacrament (the point applies equally to minister and subject). The "implicit intention of doing what Christ instituted" means so vague and small a thing that one can hardly help having it -- unless one deliberately excludes it. At the time when every one was talking about Anglican orders numbers of Catholics confused intention with faith. Faith is not wanted. It is heresy to say that it is (this was the error of St Cyprian and Firmilian against which Pope Stephen I 254-257 protested). A man may have utterly wrong, heretical, and blasphemous views about a sacrament and yet confer or receive it quite validly." This is important, because validity is the sacred cow of the ISM. Without valid apostolic succession, the sacraments offered by a priest are invalid. I have been quite scrupulous about sacraments in the past, and continue to be so to a large degree. My theological education, which is patently Western, has always maintained that matter, form, and intent are essential to the valid confection of a sacrament. Matter is the touching of the head with the hands (or hand for diaconate), form is the wording within the preface (in the Western rite) indicating what is being done, and intent is to do what the church intends. That is it. This is relatively simple and reasonably difficult to "mess up." Now, this post is not intended to get into the murky world of what is the correct form. Traditionalists have been arguing this since the Pontifical of Paul VI appeared and, specifically, if the form for the consecration of bishops truly confers ordination in comparison to the traditional form. For the sake of this post we will generically assume that any form indicating what is taking place will suffice, whatever your view happens to be on this subject. The issue of this blog post is when other requirements are attached that are historically inaccurate and unnecessary. For instance, it has been repeated ad nauseam that Utrecht requires that a bishop be elected for a specific church. It is unnecessary, although desirable to some, that the clergy and laity be involved in the election of bishops. To require such would invalidate the episcopate of the Roman Catholic and some Orthodox churches. Furthermore, the Church has a long tradition of missionary bishops (St. Boniface!) who are consecrated for no particular population (but with the expectation of the conversion of a populace), bishops of monasteries, administrative bishops who have no direct charge, etc. Depending on your view, this may or may not be desirable. The point, however, is that oikonomia allows for the continuation of the apostolic succession. Holy Mother Utrecht herself derives her orders from a so-called "titular bishop." Now, because individuals are validly consecrated without a charge does not mean that it is not desirable. No one bishop "owns" the apostolic succession, as the apostolic tradition of the church is complementary to the tactile succession. That is, to do what the church intends. Being consecrated for a specific church creates a larger sense of accountability as well. When St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote "Where the bishop is, there is the church," it was not carte blanche for every egomaniacal sociopath bishop to justify their authority. Will things aways be done according to the most desirable practice? No. Will people still be healed, the Most Blessed Sacrament be celebrated, the Good News still be preached, and grace be conferred? Yes. Even a scrupulous person like the humble writer can believe that message! This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Posted by Vagrant Vicar at 7:35 PM

1 comment:

  1. Is this 'Vagrant Vicar' the same person as the author of this blog? May I ask why he refers to 'Holy Mother Utrecht'?